Cold climate gardeners are used to hearing “that doesn’t grow in your climate.” Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix is a refreshing change from that. Not only does she describe 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden and Add Variety, Flavor, and Fun, but she tells you which varieties are best for growing in short seasons, which ones appreciate and grow best in cool weather, and which ones need a little help–either by starting them indoors or covering them in the fall–to get from germination to harvest. But if she can grow them in Halifax, Nova Scotia, there’s a good chance you can grow them, too.
Like spinach? Try these greens!Every section is introduced with a common vegetable and some interesting alternatives–spinach, in this case. Some of the suggestions are much cold hardier than spinach, and some are more heat tolerant.
In some cases, Niki recommends unusual varieties of vegetables most people already grow, such as peas, carrots, and beets. But many of the unusual vegetables she profiles are enjoyed by other cultures around the world. In fact, that’s how Niki got started experimenting with “weird” vegetables: her Lebanese mother-in-law recognized as a Lebanese summer squash the snake gourd Nike was growing. Nike had no clue it was edible in its immature form. She had planned to use it in its mature gourd form as a Halloween decoration. That discovery led Niki on a search for other ethnic vegetables she was missing out on.One of the cutest of her discoveries has got to be cucamelons. Cucamelons (Melothria scabra), also known as Mexican sour gherkins or mouse melons, are “small cucumber-like fruits, shaped like baby watermelons [with] a cucumber-like taste with a touch of lemon,” as described in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog. Nike says her kids like them so much there’s hardly any to bring into the kitchen. They sure do look fun!
Not for deer only
The most surprising vegetables were those that started out in the flower garden. I actually had heard of both daylilies and sea kale being eaten, but not hostas. Yes, hostas. There are a few more garden flowers featured in her book, and I’ll let you discover them for yourself. Niki also lets you know when the vegetables are pretty enough to plant in your flower garden, or in a pot on your deck.
Your ancestors may have eaten something from this book. Mine did!
Back to that Lebanese squash aka snake gourd–it’s called cucuzza. Reading that name reminded me of a squash my great-grandfather grew. He called it gagootz, or maybe cucutz. Yep, same thing. According to Niki, cucuzza is grown all around the Mediterranean, but I had to google Sicilian summer squash before I was sure it was the same thing. Most of the search results I visited didn’t seem to realize it could be harvested and eaten when only a foot long.
If you’re starting to get a “been there, done that” attitude about your vegetable garden, or if you’ve seen unusual varieties in a seed catalog and wondered if they’re any good, or if you’re looking for a vegetable your grandparents always talk about–this is the book for you! It’s fun to read even if you don’t grow vegetables!
One commenter, chosen at random, will receive a copy of this book. Sorry, but only United States and Canadian readers are eligible to enter. One entry per person. Giveaway ends on Sunday, February 18 at midnight Pacific time. For other chances to win, check out these blogs:
More Than Oregano
A Way to Garden
The Impatient Gardener
Red Dirt Ramblings and look for a blog post at Garden Delights tomorrow.
For this post, I received a copy of the book to read, along with a copy to give away to one of my readers. All the opinions are my own. I loved this book! Links to Amazon will give me a small commission if you order something.